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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


21 March 2014

Pass me the 'dog book'

Hi Mia!

So many books. Written about dogs. Most I see at the airport, memoirs of someone’s ‘very special relationship’ with a 'very special' dog, another about dogs ‘racing in the rain,’ (seems like it would be a pretty short book, or would make a better YouTube video), and some even feature a dog as a private eye (many are fans of this one, see Patricia McConnell’s review).

Sometimes while sitting in the living room I joke with my boyfriend, “Pass me the dog book." Maybe I find this WAY more funny than he does, but like you, I am surrounded by dog books! Right in front of me is The Domestic Dog (Serpell, ed), and to my right I can see Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog (Scott and Fuller). Beneath that is What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs (Warren).

Now we’ll all be surrounded by one more dog book, Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris! This one I am particularly biased towards because it is edited by Alexandra Horowitz, and I co-authored one of the chapters with her. As an edited volume, Horowitz -- and her way with words and dogs (she authored Inside of a Dog) -- stands behind the text, but each chapter has its own focus and tone. The book is in three parts:
  • Part I covers the perceptual abilities of dogs and the effect of interbreeding
  • Part II includes observational and experimental results from studies of social cognition – such as learning and social referencing – and physical cognition in canids
  • Part III summarizes the work in the field to date, reviewing various conceptual and methodological approaches, and testing anthropomorphisms with regard to dogs
  • The final chapter discusses the practical application of behavioral and cognitive results to promote animal welfare

Here’s a look at a few chapters in detail: 

Canine Olfaction: Scent, Sign, and Situation
Think you know canine olfaction? Think again! This chapter by Gadbois and Reeve discusses topics like “zoosemiotics" and “canine olfactory psychoethology.” Yeah! (and yes, the words “peemail” and “Nosebook” appear in this chapter). More about Gadbois and his work here.

Dog Breeds and Their Behavior
This chapter by James Serpell and Deborah Duffy is probably of interest to many (and it is already listed on the book website as “popular content”). They note that while there are some “breed-associated temperament traits, such as, German shorthaired pointers deliberately selected for nervousness/fearfulness,” it’s generally more complex than that on an individual basis. More about Duffy here, and Serpell here (and Serpell edited the 1995 book, The Domestic Dog).

Measuring the Behaviour of Dogs: An Ethological Approach
What do ‘dog cognition’ studies actually look like? This chapter, by Claudia Fugazza and Ádam Miklósi, takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of research in practice with topics like single-subject studies (dogs like Chase, Rico, Betsy etc.), comparative studies, and the presence or absence of owners during cognitive tests. For a further look into dog cognition studies, check out It’s a “web-based system that facilitates the exchange of videos among students of animal behavior.” More about Fugazza here, and Miklósi and the Family Dog Project here.

Looking at Dogs: Moving from Anthropocentrism to Canid Umwelt  
This chapter begins, "As a companion to humans, the domestic dog is naturally interpreted from a human-centered (anthropocentric) perspective." In this chapter, Alexandra Horowitz and I cover recent research into attributions to dogs, particularly the "guilty look" and inequity aversion, as well as factors that can impact peoples' interpretation of "human" in dog. We also investigate anthropocentric and canid-centric elements of our own and others’ research. Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab here

The remaining chapters cover:
  • Marc Bekoff: The Significance of Ethological Studies: Playing and Peeing
  • Ludwig Huber, Friederike Range & Zsófia Virányi: Dog Imitation and Its Possible Origins (Clever Dog Lab)
  • Emanuela Prato-Previde & Sarah Marshall-Pescini: Social Looking in the Domestic Dog (website)
  • Alejandra Rossi, Daniel Smedema, Francisco J. Parada & Colin Allen: Visual Attention in Dogs and the Evolution of Non-Verbal Communication
  • Sylvain Fiset, Pierre Nadeau-Marchand & Nathaniel Hall: Cognitive Development in Gray Wolves: Development of Object Permanence and Sensorimotor Intelligence with Respect to Domestic Dogs (Canine Cognition Lab)
For those working with shelter or working dogs, the final chapter by Rooney and Bradshaw is incredibly useful. Scratch that. Anyone who cares about dogs should understand how animal welfare science can be applied to canines.

What can I say? Books about canine behavior, biology and cognition are great.


Horowitz A. (2014). Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris, DOI:
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